Scientists are developing a pill that could help you forget bad memories-and they have just tested it on 60 heart-broken people.
Dr.Alain Brunet's memory manipulation study at the McGill University in Quebec,Canada,hopes to bring about a pioneering technique for the easing of painful memories.
What had previously been a science fiction fantasy,discarding unwanted memories,may become a reality for those suffering from an'adjustment disorder'after experiencing a traumatic event.
Of the 60 people who signed up for the psychiatry study all had experienced the same emotion,the betrayal of their partner ending the romantic relationship,and all wanted to forget it.
Using a non-expensive blood pressure drug,propranolol,the volunteers were made to recall their painful memory by reading a very detailed account of the breakup that they had written,before being asked personal questions about their feelings.
They were made to do this between four and six times while under the influence of propranolol with the aim of reactivating the memory to decrease its strength by blocking the synapse changes needed to solidify its existence.
Dr Brunet believes propranolol can dull the emotional pain associated with the memory,and could be taken at any point after the event.
While the study has been completed,its results are yet to be released and are awaiting peer review.
However Dr Brunet told The National Post that participants'Just couldn't believe that we could do so much in such a small amount of time.
'They were able to turn the page.That's what they would tell us.''
Dr Brunet claims he is not looking to fully wipe out memories due to the ethical problems that may arise,stating:'It's not going to come from my lab'.
He adds that'toning down a memory'was more comfortable ground for him and his team,ethically.
But he adds:'If one day you had two options—I can tone down your memory,or I can remove it altogether,from your head,from your mind—what would you choose?'
Researchers at the McGill University have based their work on the theory that a memory becomes pliable when it is recalled.
For around two to five hours after recall Dr Brunet believes a memory can be modified before it is re-stored or'reconsolidated'.
Propranolol is believed to stop proteins in the brain from re-storing the memory in the way it did before,meaning some details of the memory are lost.
Boston University neuroscientist Steve Ramirez claims'memory is dynamic'and each time you'open'a memory you effectively press'save as'as if it is a word file,with any changes you may have made unwittingly saved until next time you recall the memory.
Ethical concerns also arise over how many and which types of memories the technique could be used for-should people be allowed to forget an embarrassing drunken episode they may need to learn from?